Some days, I look back at my childhood through rose-colored glasses, yearning for those simpler, idyllic times. The slower pace of growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s beckons to me as I race through middle age, trying to keep up with my teenager’s busy schedules.
Other days, I wonder how the hell I ever survived the ‘60s and ‘70s. Were there no safety regulations? Consumer product testing? Common sense? Mommy guilt?
Let’s take a little stroll down Memory Lane.
My husband tells me how his mom’s doctor advised her to smoke and have a glass of wine to relax during pregnancy. (Can you say “malpractice”?) These days, pregnant moms are practically accused of child abuse if they’re sniffing second-hand smoke as they walk through a restaurant’s outdoor patio.
How About That Yummy ’60s Food?
As children of the ‘60s, we consumed Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks or Sugar Crisps for breakfast (notice a pattern?), ate a can of Chef-Boyardee for lunch and scarfed a frozen Swanson dinner full of classic Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes while we parked ourselves in front of the TV. Where the hell was our food pyramid, and how did we not develop scurvy or rickets during our fresh-fruit-free childhood?
How about those wonderful, packed-with-love, egg salad sandwiches our moms sent us to school with . . . in brown paper bags? No frozen, football-shaped ice-packs to keep the salmonella and E. coli at bay. No, it was a wing and a prayer that kept us one step ahead of a bout with food poisoning.
Safety Is for Wimps
As kids, we often sat in the front of the car (on the bench seat between our parents), with no airbags to cushion us if dad stopped short to avoid a squirrel, sending us careening into the dashboard or, worse, through the front windshield. Sometimes we sat in the back seat, bouncing around unrestrained and often engaged in free-for-all fights with siblings. Cars did have lap belts, but they were usually buried in the crevice of the back seat along with loose change and stray Cracker Jack peanuts. Ah, good times.
When we rode our banana-seat bikes, we went barefoot with no helmet, sometimes with a friend balancing on the handlebars. Helmets were for dorks! Who cares if we occasionally lost a toe in the spokes or cracked our skull against the curb? As long as we were out of the house, our parents were thrilled!
Thanks to the lack of cabinet locks, child-proof caps and other baby-proofing wonders, we had 24/7 access to everything in our parents’ lead-painted cabinets, from Drano and oven cleaner to medicine and bleach. Eventually, in the ’70s, we got to add those fun “Mr. Yuk” poison control stickers to our family toxins. But still.
It’s Playtime, ’70s-Style!
When we played, it was usually outside, which was a good thing compared to today’s screen-addicted kids. But we disappeared for hours without telling our parents, who didn’t seem to care (or notice) that we were missing and incommunicado for half a day. We could have been walking along railroad tracks, playing with M-80s, meeting up with Ted Bundy, or crossing a state border, but our parents couldn’t track us down with a GPS-enabled cell phone. They just assumed we’d be home “by dark” or “when the street lights came on.”
“Go play at the park,” our moms would croon to us when we cried, “We’re bored!” In other words, why don’t we just dash to the hot, metal death trap down the road? We could play on those rusty playgrounds that required a Tetanus-booster after a trip down the jagged-edged slide. If we’re especially lucky on a hot, summer day, we’d come home with a nice memento (a.k.a. first-degree burn) on our legs when slide temps would top out at 140+ degrees. Not ready for a good, ol’ fashioned scalding? How about a nice contusion if we got clunked on the head with wooden swing seats the size of breadboards? Or let’s go for a 1960s-style abrasion from a skid across the hot asphalt after we got propelled from the whirling, madcap merry-go-round? Or, just for kicks, how about a trip to the ER after the whole swing set tipped over because it wasn’t anchored into the ground with cement? (Yes, I’m talking to you, Brian.)
And what think tank designed the dangerous toys we played with in the ‘60s and ‘70s? Let’s bat around a pair of Clackers—essentially two giant glass or acrylic marbles on a string that you smash together, sometimes sending “Clacker shrapnel” to lodge into your cornea. And let’s not forget about Jarts—basically giant darts with a FOOT-LONG weighted metal tip on one end. Like a game of horseshoes, players were supposed to throw Jarts underhanded toward a target, with the tip sticking into the ground. Or into someone’s thigh. Or skull. Were there seriously no product testers in the 1960s who could have predicted the liability here?
Let’s Catch Some Rays
As we entered our teen years, we took the danger into our own hands, slathering on baby oil and concocting tinfoil-covered-cardboard “mirrors” to intensify the sun’s rays. (Remember, back then it was called sunTAN lotion, not sunscreen.) But not only did we lack SPF completely until the ’70s (and only then, got to choose from SPF 4, 6 or 8), we actually multiplied the sun’s effects and encouraged skin cancer with our tinfoil origami projects. Nice!
While there’s plenty to love about the ‘60s and ‘70s (hello, lava lamps, Frisbees, and disco), it was a tad dangerous. And don’t even get me started on the perils of those naughty ‘80s.